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Hindsight Is 20/20: 11 Things to Review After Your Charity Event

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 5/23/17 3:06 PM

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Whether you throw an event that surpassed your expectations or one that didn't go at all like you expected, you can rest assured that there are ways for you to improve. But if you really want to see that improvement, then you need to make sure you have an honest idea about the success (or less-than-success) of your charity event.

In this post, we'll talk about 11 different ways you should be reviewing your past charity events - and how these methods will help you prepare for all the events you have in the future.

Timeliness Is Everything

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One of the most important elements of your review is timeliness.

The earlier you do your review, the fresher people's memories will be, and, thus, the more accurate the review will end up being (and also the more helpful.)

So make sure you work time to do an official review as soon after the event is over as possible. Work it into your overall plan - and for help with that plan, check out our free event planning ebook.

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There are different stages to the review. For example, a post-evaluation of the team's opinion may be best immediately at the end or the next day. But you might not have all your financial reports that early.

When you are scheduling a review process, document the entire process you will be using and then set dates for each individual task.

(And like all plans, make sure to include who is in charge of each item along with the date.)

Charity Event Debriefings

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Before your review process, think about the format that you would like to use. Maybe even create (or find) a template. Know what will be in it and how it will be organized. This way, when you sit down to do it, you already know what you are doing.

Event Pro Strategies has a post that lists out the sections you should put in your event debriefing, and you may find it helpful.

11 Things You Should Review After Your Charity Event

So now that you know a little bit about when and how to review, let's talk about some specific items you should actually review.

(But before we get started, it is important to point out that this is a process. Don't just pick one of these measures. Maybe you didn't quite meet your goals this year, but you raised a lot more than ever before. Or maybe your donors had a great time and are going to tell all of their friends to attend next year, but your sponsors felt that you didn't give them the recognition that they deserved.

Success is measured in more than one way, and it is important to look at all of these categories in order to really get an accurate picture.)

1. Goals/KPIs Over Results

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Courtesy of GIPHY. 

At the very initial stages of your planning process, you hopefully set out some goals for your event. (And for more on what type of goals you should have been setting, see our post on creating goals.)

Now that your event is over, compare your goals with your results.

  • Did you raise as much (or more) than you hoped?
  • Did you get enough people asking for more information? Setting up regular donations? Etc.?
  • Did you have the amount of repeat donors that you wanted? New donors?

Look at each goal individually. If there were any goals you didn't meet, ask yourself why. Then, try to eliminate that obstacle next year (or else admit to yourself that you were not being realistic when you set the goal.)

2. Net Total Over Gross

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Yay! You raised $100,000 (or a million, or $1000 - whatever number would make you say yay!) But then all those bills start rolling in. You've got to pay vendors and venues and...you know all the costs.

And that $100,000 is dwindling fast. Hopefully you kept to your budget (but more on that in a second) and kept your goal number as a gross figure. If so, and you met or exceeded your goal, you should be in good shape with this.

But when evaluating how you did, double check that you are taking into account your Net Total - the amount you raised after taking out all other "event-related" costs and not your Gross Total - the overall figure.

3. Your Budget

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Honestly take some time to review your budget:

  • Did you give yourself too little? Too much?
  • Would setting a (reasonably) larger budget have made a better experience for your guests?
  • Could you have put more into one area of your budget and less into another?

Taking a hard look at your budget for this event will help you decide what you should set your budget at next year (or event).

4. Past Events

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How did this event compare to last year or the year before?

The goal is to always be improving, so if your event has become stagnant - or is raising less - then this may be a sign you need to change something.

Of course, this is one of the most important items on this list to not take in a silo. In general, you hope to see year after year increases, but there are several reasons for this to not be the case.

  • The economy is bad and no one is raising as much this year.
  • Your team was in flux this year and while you are hiring new (and maybe even better) people, you expected to take a hit.
  • You are starting an annual event, such as a gala, that costs you a lot more to run, but will, eventually, raise more than ever, but you need a few years to let it run.

So, evaluate your past events to see if you are growing, but remember to take in all the other factors along with it.

5. Donor/Bidder/Guest Opinions

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What your guests, donors, and bidders thought of your event is vastly important for upcoming years. If they all bought expensive tickets expecting some grand experience, and were disappointed in what they received, you got their money this year, but you may not get it ever again.

There are several ways to know what your donors/bidders/guests thought of your event, but I am going to talk about two big ones:

Listen to Them

Actively listen to any comments your guests make to you, your team (see more in #10), and to each other. (I mean, don't eavesdrop, but if you hear something in passing, absorb it.)

What are they saying that is good. What are they saying that isn't? Make their comments part of your debriefing.

Conduct a Survey

Soon after your event - so that they remember how they felt in the moment - send out a survey to your guests. (It's a good idea to have these up and ready to go before the event. In fact, you could even have these at the door for guests to respond to in the moment.)

Get as much insight as you can (without overwhelming the responders.)

  • Ask questions about the venue, location, parking, feel, size, crowdedness, etc.
  • Did they make a donation/bid on an item? If so, what made them want to? If not, what would have enticed them to?
  • Would they attend again?
  • Would they recommend it?
  • What would they change?
  • What would they keep the same?
  • How did they hear about it?

In order to make sure you get honest, and not just polite, input, think about making the surveys anonymous.

6. Sponsor Thoughts

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Similar to the guests reviews, if you have sponsors, talk to them about how they thought the night went. Maybe they were expecting more appreciation for what they did or maybe they thought that what they were paying for was a lot different.

Checking with your sponsors and making sure they are happy will make next year a lot easier when you'd like to ask them to sponsor your event again.

7. After Event Donations

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So maybe a few guests at your event didn't bring their checkbooks - or maybe they did, but their friend who they know would love to give wasn't there.

If your event gets enough rave reviews post-event, then you could see an uptick in the donations you see in the weeks following.

As part of your review, look at the funds you received in a set time frame post-event - and see how it compares to how much you got in the weeks before the event or at that time last year or whatever method works best for you.

8. (Social) Media Response

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Did anyone write about or cover your event in the media? What about on social media? Were people talking about you there?

There are two main ways to evaluate the media (and social media) response to your event.

1. Amount of Coverage: if no one is talking about you at all, then you may want to figure out how to get the word out next year. (Amp up your marketing and think about creating a press kit.)

2. Tone of Coverage: if people are talking about you, what are they saying? Take in the good and bad and use it to improve your next event.

9. Your Team

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Don't do the evaluation in a silo. Sit down with your team to debrief. They have both internal and external opinions on how the event went.

Internal

How was the event from an HR or volunteer standpoint? Was it organized? Were people overwhelmed? Was communication an issue?

Talk to your team - including volunteers - to see how you can improve morale among your helpers in the future.

  • Figure out if you had the right amount of volunteers - if the workload was too much or not enough, then you should make changes.
  • Learn if your team felt appreciated and as if they were doing something meaningful (this is especially important when considering volunteers.)
  • See if people knew what they were doing, when, and how.

External

Your team will also have an idea of how the night (or day) went for your guests. They will have heard the comments and can report on them. However, they will also have seen the event.

Did a large poster fall in the middle of a speech? Someone on the team probably knows.

Did you run out of ice early in the evening? Ditto.

Sit down with them to see what they saw, what they think worked, and what they believe can be improved.

10. The 'Night Of' Moments

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Take a look at everything that actually happened during your event. Make note of any mishaps - half your volunteers didn't show up, the lights went out for half an hour, the ice sculpture melted.

Now, look at all the successes - the bidding technology worked flawlessly, someone made a huge donation that sent your thermometer through the roof, and the guest speaker made everyone cry - in a good way.

Make all of these moments part of your debriefing.

11. Your Self

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Finally, ask yourself how you felt the event went.

This is obviously a soft factor - there are no real measurable factors to add to it. But your gut matters.

You just put a whole lot of work into this thing and you are about to start the whole grueling process over:

Don't just take in the numbers. Take your feelings into it.

Do you feel like you did something great? Was it all worth it?

Maybe you still have a lot that needs to improve before your next event. But if you feel like everything you have done has been worth the time, sweat, and headaches you have experienced, then it can't have been a complete disaster.

The Usual Wrap-Up

We all know that we aren't likely to luck into improvements. If we want to improve anything in life, we have to do some honest assessments of how we are doing already.

Fundraising and charity events are not exceptions. If you want your events getting bigger and better every year, then you have to figure out what is working and what isn't.

Hopefully these tips will help you.

Have more tips on evaluating your events? As always, let me know in the comments or on social media.

Topics: Tips and How To's

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